UK: Sailors, Royal Marines Remember Fallen Comrades

Sailors, Royal Marines Remember Fallen Comrades

November ceremonies this year were largely blessed by unseasonally warm, bright weather in the UK – and, in the case of RNAS Yeovilton, were honoured with the presence of Britain’s most senior clergyman.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams was guest of honour at the Somerset air station for its annual act of remembrance in the serene surroundings of the churchyard of St. Bartholomew’s Fleet Air Arm Memorial Church, Yeovilton.

During the service, the roll of honour was read out by the Base Warrant Officer, WO1 Steve Uzzell and detailed all Royal Naval and Royal Marine personnel who have lost their lives over the past 12 months.

In his address, Dr Williams said that over the past decade, the men and women of our Armed Forces had been “sent to distant parts of the globe and unfamiliar cultures, to in quarrels and conflicts about which we know very little.

“And the Armed Forces have been asked to go to these places and take exactly the same risks that they would take for comrades, for family, or for country.

“That’s become one of the most complex but also one of the most extraordinary things about military service in our generation. Our Forces have taken risks for the sake of strangers.

“They take risks not because people are friends but in order that they might become friends.

“Our Forces have been at war not only in the great theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan but in many other places too in order to make friends in order to bring harmony and trust between people in an age of deep anxiety and instability.”

As a poignant reminder of the sacrifices that have been made by members of the Fleet Air Arm, a veteran Swordfish torpedo bomber from the Royal Navy Historic Flight flew past the churchyard as a Royal Marines bugler performed the Last Post; November 11 is the anniversary of the Swordfish’s finest hour, the crippling of the Italian Fleet at Taranto in 1940.

Eighty or so miles away and in the shadow of the magnificent naval memorial on Plymouth Hoe, hundreds of sailors and Royal Marines paid their respects with veterans, politicians and civic leaders.

Representatives from HMS Drake, the RFA, 3 Commando Brigade and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, plus the Band of HM Royal Marines Plymouth attended in strength, with Rear Admiral Clive Johnstone, Flag Officer Sea Training, laying a wreath on behalf of the Senior Service.

“At this very special time of remembrance I find myself caught between two emotions,”

said the Admiral.

“First and most powerful is the deepest respect and reverence of those who have served and have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Indeed, there is no word that captures the impact of this recognition and the thanks for those who have laid their lives for their Country and the endeavour that it is set upon.

“I do have a second emotion, and this is the thanks for our current Servicemen and Servicewomen especially those of the Naval Service who are working under such pressure across the world, looking after our security and our interests.

“They stand very proudly in the shadow of those who have gone before.”

Along the coast in Portsmouth, there were services at its imposing Naval memorial, currently in the middle of a restoration project, on the seafront; in Guildhall Square, which was filled with hundreds of the public lining the steps and balconies; and at HMS Excellent in front of Leach Building, the headquarters of the Fleet and Royal Marines.

In the South Atlantic, HMS Montrose paid particular homage to her Scottish roots as her ship’s company fixed Scottish poppies to their caps for a memorial service.

Unlike the Royal British Legion poppies, which feature two petals and a green leaf, Poppy Scotland poppies are distinguished by four petals; proceeds from their sale goes to veterans north of border, where one in five people is either a serving member of the Armed Forces, ex-Services or the spouse or dependant of someone who’s been in the military.

Montrose was at sea 12 months ago for Armistice Day – then she was deterring piracy in the Indian Ocean and paid her respects at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Twelve months on, and in a different ocean, charged with promoting British interests in the South Atlantic and providing reassurance to British citizens in the southern hemisphere, her ship’s company paid their respects to those whose only grave is the sea.

In a moving service led by the ship’s padre, chaplain Andrew Allcock, sailors formed up on the flight deck in the stifling heat before a wreath was cast into the water.

“Although we’re far from home, it’s vitally important for my ship’s company to have the opportunity to join those back in the United Kingdom – and across the world – in marking Remembrance Sunday,”

said Montrose’s Commanding Officer Cdr Jonathan Lett.

“In fact, being deployed on operations adds an element of poignancy, providing a direct link to those who have gone before us and allowing us to remember those who have gone before us and allowing us to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

It was similarly hot for HMS St Albans, coming to the end of a six-month patrol in the Gulf, as she held a flight deck service on her way home to Portsmouth, while the ship which has replaced her, HMS Argyll, was also at sea.

Pausing her latest Gulf patrol, Argyll’s sailors and Royal Marines listened as the roll of honour of the last 12 months’ fallen was read out.

“I can think of no greater honour than to lead a Remembrance Service and, being at sea, while on active operations, added a poignant edge to what is an already solemn occasion,”

said Cdr Paul Stroude, Argyll’s Commanding Officer.

“It always stirs powerful emotions for those serving in the Forces, it reminds us all of the sacrifice, not only of our brethren, but also of our loved ones back home.”

In Bahrain, the hub of the Royal Navy’s operations in the Gulf, there was a rather unusual ceremony aboard minehunter HMS Pembroke.

The ship hosted three Chelsea Pensioners – despite the heat, they were dressed in their resplendent and instantly-recognisable scarlet coats – who were visiting the kingdom for November ceremonies and found the Sandown-class ship alongside undergoing a spot of maintenance.

The trio, all former soldiers, were given a tour of Pembroke and buttonholed the ship’s company on their jobs in the Gulf as well as the equipment aboard.

One of the three visitors, John McNaughton, had served for nearly two years in the region half a century ago as an Army diver.

Pembroke’s divers offered him the chance to take a dip once more in familiar waters, but he declined with a wry smile, explaining that he’d left his swimming costume behind in his hotel.

The visit to the ship ended with the pensioners being hosted in the senior rates’ mess for a spot of refreshments and a good chinwag.

“Listening to the memories they had of their time in the Army as well sharing our own stories was a great experience – and was made even more pertinent at this remembrance period,”

said WO2 Mark Hinton, Pembroke’s Marine Engineer Officer.

“It was an absolute privilege for me and my senior rates’ mess to host them and I look forward to taking the offer of visiting their home some day.”

The pensioners returned to their famous Chelsea home with a bevvy of cap tallies and a ship’s badge to adorn the new clubhouse at the Royal Hospital.

Naval Today Staff, November 16, 2011; Image: royalnavy